Mindset and Heartset [Hagel]

I truly enjoyed this short piece by John Hagel who leads the Center for the Edge:

Mindset and Heartset

In this piece, Hagel makes an observation that deeply resonates with me on the current focus of the conversation around personal and organizational development:

The key assumption in the room was that it was all about the mind. They assumed that our assumptions and beliefs shape what we feel and what we do. In this view of the world, emotions are a distraction, or at best a second order effect, and it’s ultimately all about our mind.

He then offers an alternative viewpoint:

Our emotions aren’t just derivative of our assumptions and beliefs. Emotions shape our perceptions, assumptions, thoughts and beliefs as well. If you try to shape assumptions and beliefs without paying attention to the emotions that already exist, good luck.

We need to move beyond mindset and expand our horizons to address our heartset: what are the emotions that filter how we perceive the world, shape what we believe and influence how we act?

The rest of the piece explores Hagel’s thesis around the origin of the mindset-focused viewpoint, and an attempt at sketching out a path forward that better integrates “heartset”, primarily making the case for the power of narratives in shaping emotions. The latter ties in well with the piece from two weeks ago about wise interventions.

While I read Hagel’s description of the current mindset-focused conversation as somewhat critical, I view it through a more appreciative lens: as the first step in breaking into the behaviorist view of human beings as a black box and a bold attempt to develop a more holistic view of humans that takes “what’s inside” into account.

Having said that, I agree that the mindset-focused narrative is incomplete, and the relationship between thoughts and emotions is bi-directional: thoughts shape emotions and emotions shape thoughts. If we think of emotions as labels that we’ve assigned to a subset of sensory, felt experiences perhaps the broader aspiration should be to integrate the cognitive perception (mindset) with a more holistic somatic perception into a unified view of human experience.

Mindset and Heartset [Hagel]

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